Thursday July 27 – Southampton
George’s birthday today, and after we finished the bulk of our packing we spent an hour or so getting the house ready to be abandoned for a week. That meant picking and freezing runner beans, watering all the garden container plants, filling a ‘reservoir’ for the tomatoes in the greenhouse, and putting clean linen on our bed. I managed to get all the washing done, too, and left it over the dryer-rack in the spare bedroom.
We had an early lunch and were on our way before 1.00 pm, and although the roads were unusually busy all the way we were checking into the Holiday Inn by Southampton docks around three hours later, so not too bad. Nice receptionist sorted us out a room with a view of the Mayflower Terminal so we could check ‘Adonia’ had arrived the next morning!
We settled in and both had a bath before walking into the city. We opted to eat at an Italian place that we’ve been to before, but this time wished we hadn’t. Our garlic bread starter was not what we expected – it was like a thin pizza base with garlic in the dough – and we then waited aged for our main course pizzas. And we waited. And we waited some more. In the end we just asked for the bill for what we’d already had as we were now running late. The restaurant slightly redeemed itself by waiving any charges, which was good, though we were still hungry, which wasn’t so good.
The reason for our rush was that we needed to walk to the Mayflower Theatre, where we had tickets to see the “The Addams Family Musical”, starring Samantha Womack as Morticia and Les Dennis as Uncle Fester. Well, it was very good, really funny. The guy playing Lurch stole the show towards the end (but I won’t say more and spoil it for anyone planning to see it!).
Back at the hotel we had a glass of wine, before turning in. Tomorrow – to the ship!
Friday July 28 – Southampton
As usual, neither of us slept well (strange beds always do that to us) and we were up and breakfasted (large breakfasts, to make up for not eating last night) quite early. Our taxi to the ship was booked for 11.30 am, so we plenty of time for some shopping in West Quay where we both had a couple of bits to look for (mostly successfully, I’m pleased to say!).
We checked out of our room and were sitting in the reception lobby waiting for our taxi when we spotted Les Dennis. We had a brief chat with him about last night’s show before our taxi arrived. Although it was barely 11.45 am when we checked in there were already around 50 people sitting clutching their boarding passes. We were welcomed to the Priority waiting area where we just had time for a drink and cake before being escorted on board. We were taken straight to the Pacific restaurant for our ‘priority’ buffet lunch, where we had a chat with another couple and a few glasses of fizz along with our food.
There was a “cabin’s are ready” announcement, so we made our way to our suite. Having never had a suite on board before, we were pretty gobsmacked by the size of it – we’ve had cabins smaller than the bathroom here! And along with the huge bathroom there was a large sitting room (3-piece suite, dining table and four chairs, and giant TV in a unit with DVD player and music system), bedroom with three double wardrobes, dressing table, separate desk and another TV, and what was described as a “guest cloakroom”. The balcony wrapped around the side and aft of the ship, opening from both the bedroom and sitting room, with sunbeds, recliner chairs and a table and upright chairs ready for some decent weather.
Unpacking our cases proved interesting: there was so much storage space that we couldn’t decide where to put stuff! We ended up using one of the wardrobes to store our empty cases in! Must admit, though, that I missed having a bedside cabinet (there was just a small table each instead) as a small drawer is handy for hiding away things like our glasses and various pills. But I was sure we’d manage!
Our butler came and introduced himself, followed shortly by our cabin steward. I made use of the butler later to show me how to work the jacuzzi in the bath, as I couldn’t figure it out when I had a dip before dinner, but to be honest I’m not sure about having a ‘servant’ – we’ll see.
Bags unpacked, we went exploring, working our way down from the top of the ship. It didn’t take long, as this ship is DINKY! Our enormous suite seems even more surreal by comparison. But first impressions are very favourable, and we booked dinner for the evening in the Ocean Grill (they had a 33% price reduction offer – love a bargain, me!). We also ran into Aaron, one of the entertainment team who was on ‘Aurora’ with us on the world cruise earlier this year; he remembered us, which might or might not be a good thing!
We left Southampton in a bit of a drizzle, but as we passed Portsmouth we went out onto Prom Deck to see the new American giant aircraft carrier (the USS George H W Bush) anchored there. What a monster! Apparently there are 90 aircraft on board!
Our dinner in the Ocean Grill was lovely, and as is often the case with these things our tums just couldn’t stretch to a pudding after everything else. But we thoroughly enjoyed what we did have, and the steaks were cooked to perfection.
The rest of our evening was spent firstly watching a show – the Adonia Theatre Company performing “No Town Like Motown”, which being a huge Motown fan I enjoyed enormously. Then we made our way to the Crow’s Nest for the first quiz of the cruise, which was about British sitcoms, and although we’d done this quiz before we still didn’t manage to win it! The old memory’s not what it was…
And that was enough for us. We went to bed not knowing what sort of a night we’d have, what with a strange bed, strange noises – and pretty lumpy seas. George took a seasickness pill and crossed his fingers.
We’ll see. Goodnight (I hope)
Saturday July 29 – at sea
Not a good night at all. Not because of the motion of the ocean so much as the duvet being annoyingly hot.
George was up early, making tea so he could take another Stugeron. He decided he didn’t want any breakfast so I made my lonely way to the Ocean Grill where a select brekkie was laid on for all passengers in suites. It was fine – a full selection to choose from, with hot items, including toast, cooked to order. I was also offered a complimentary glass of Buck’s Fizz to welcome me aboard, but I couldn’t face alcohol at 8.00 in the morning!
While George spent most of the morning trying not to throw up I went along to the Crow’s Nest for an informal meet-and-mingle with five other passengers who’d been in touch through Facebook. We sat chatting for an hour or so, and then when Aaron came in to run a themed quiz (celebrity chefs this time), we joined in as a team. And just like last night, the quiz was familiar, but still no win!
Feeling better by midday, George went along to the Adonia Vocalists rehearsal, while I grabbed some lunch. Then we met up again and both joined in with a play reading workshop, where the subject was scene two of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”. It was an amusing session, very easy to take part in, and I think we all learned something from it. I hope there’s another session like it later in the cruise, but it’s not looking too hopeful.
Straight after ‘acting’ we both joined in with the Battle of the Sexes. I was nominated as the ladies’ captain, and I’m pleased to say we beat the men by 300 points to 130. Great result!
Back in the cabin I had another go at having a jacuzzi bath, and this time I got it to work properly. But I must remember next time not to put quite so much bath gel in – the bubbles rose up, and rose up, and rose up some more! How it never tipped over onto the floor I shall never know!
Tonight was the ‘welcome on board’ bun fight, held in the Curzon Lounge. Must more ‘regimented’ than we’ve experienced previously, with no change to mingle and chat to the officers: we were firmly ‘invited’ to take a seat, and the seating was all laid out ready for the evening show. Bit strange.
After that we introduced ourselves to our dinner table companions for the first time. There’s a married couple, and two sisters who’ve both left their other halves at home. The so-called gala menu was pretty uninspiring and the service was atrocious: we actually complained to the head waiter as we left the room. Hopefully things will improve from here on in, but we are seriously thinking about getting our meals served by our butler in the suite or on the balcony.
We watched a comedian after dinner: he was okay but unfortunately we’d heard every single joke before, and even the ‘comedy magic’ was nothing new. Hey ho.
There was a singer/pianist playing in Andersons this evening, Lisa Harman. We’d heard her on ‘Balmoral’ last year and knew she was very good, so went and had a listen and a bit of a chat. We also kept winding her up by asking for Genesis or Led Zeppelin numbers – she’s said she’ll see what she can do as she likes a challenge! She did do Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” though, so we didn’t beat her on that one!
The syndicate quiz was held in Andersons, so we hung around for that and were joined by two other couples to make up a team. Pleased to report that we won the bottle of wine, so a good result all round.
Sunday July 30 – Bordeaux
We lost an hour in the night, but were still up well before 8.00 am. Breakfast was in the Ocean Grill again, where once again the food was beautifully cooked and served. It’s certainly a very civilised way to start the day!
As ‘Adonia’ began sailing into the Garonne River towards Bordeaux we had our first opportunity to make use of the huge balcony outside our suite doors. George sat at the table and began catching up with his blog, while I stretched out on one of the sun-loungers and read the various port info bits I’d brought along. And the sun began to break through the clouds!
The sail up the river took a good three hours. It’s obviously pretty shallow as we were churning up mud pretty much all the way along. But the passing scenery was good, especially as we went through the Medoc wine-growing region where we spotted lots of vineyards and associated wineries.
We got off the ship almost as soon as the Deputy Captain said we could. Our plan for today was to just walk along the river-front towards the Pont de Pierre, and just generally get our bearings as we knew nothing much would be open as today’s Sunday. It was a pleasant walk, the weather was good, and all along there was music playing and families out for the afternoon. The architecture was lovely, putting us in mind of a mix of Stockholm and St Petersburg, as well as typical French.
We got as far as the Place de la Bourse where there is the Miroir d’Eau, a large paved area that is kind of like a shallow paddling pool. It gets its name from the fact that when it’s still you can see perfect reflections in it. Not that it’s still much, what the hundreds of kids (young and old) splashing around, and the little fountains and mist sprays that erupt at random intervals. I had a bit of a paddle – well, you have to, don’t you?
On our way back to ‘Adonia’ we wandered into the Esplanade des Quinconces to see the Monument aux Girondins, the memorial (more fountains!) to the local people who died during the French Revolution and the Terror that followed. Normally there’s a large market here, but today a circus had taken over the area. That should be gone by the morning hopefully – I don’t like seeing wild animals (white tigers, camels, elephants) caged up.
We decided to eat ‘at home’ this evening, so our butler served us dinner on our balcony, which was a lovely experience. We were also serenaded from on shore – not! There were two competing sets of bongo players and what sounded like a dance class being called, all within easy earshot of us. Quite a cacophony!
After dinner we listened to some decent music instead as the Adonia Theatre Company were performing “Top of the Billboard” – songs by British artists that had topped the US charts. Another excellent show: the four of them work incredibly hard, we’re very impressed.
We failed miserably at the “Majority Rules” game show/quiz, but had a good laugh at it, and with our four friends from last night just failed to win the syndicate quiz again.
A nice day, and tomorrow we’ll look for some shops!
Monday July 31 – Bordeaux
We both slept really well, and were woken this morning by odd noises and the ship juddering slightly. Bit odd, seeing as how the ship was still docked in Bordeaux! George suggested we were hearing the mooring lines being slackened and/or tightened: it sounds feasible, as the river is tidal so we’d be moving up and down with it.
After another lovely breakfast in Ocean Grill we bounced down the gangplank, today heading for the shops. Our walk was made more interesting by the quotations painted at intervals on the pavements. It was quite hard translating some of them, especially where they had worn away, and every single one was facing the direction we’d just come from! So much twisting and turning on our part was involved.
We easily found the main shopping district (known locally as the ‘golden triangle’) where we managed to spend some euros. Bordeaux wine, of course, and some items from a delicatessen, and I also found some bottles of the mustard vinaigrette that I love so much and which is no longer sold in the UK. So I was super-happy!
We had coffee at a pavement cafe before making our way back to ‘Adonia’ which sailed at around 1.00 pm. It took most of the afternoon for us to navigate our way back out of the river, but we had a lovely view of it as we crashed on the sun loungers on our balcony.
We had a go at the individual quiz, where I lost in a tie-break to one of our syndicate quiz team-mates, and after dinner (service not quite as bad as two days ago, menu still not inspiring us, though) sat reading for an hour before putting our names forward for the ship-board version of “Pointless”. Our names were drawn out the hat to take part, and thanks to George knowing about football we managed to win it! So that’s a bottle of house red to have with our meal tomorrow, and another wine cooler that’ll probably end up as a gift for someone.
The six of us met up again for the syndicate quiz, which was another win for us. We decamped to the Curzon Lounge to drink our prize bottle, and ended up chatting and laughing for well over an hour. Nice evening, and pretty successful, wine-wise!
Tuesday August 1 – Bilbao
We were woken by the docking manoeuvres as we arrived in Getxo, the port for Bilbao. The weather didn’t look promising first thing – overcast and squally rain – but it was warm, and luckily the sun came out later on.
We had no plans, and nowhere in particular we wanted to visit, so after breakfast (in Ocean Grill again – no slumming it with the hordes in the Conservatory for us!) we jumped on the shuttle bus into Bilboa. We fancied having a look at the Gugenheim Museum, and the giant puppy made of flowers that guards the entrance, and from the shuttle drop-off point it was only a short walk there. We weren’t bothered about going into the museum, but we knew there was lots to see outside, and the various statues and installations, together with a series of “then and now” photos of the area, kept us amused for an hour or so.
Our stroll back to the shuttle bus took us through a shopping area, though all we bought was a couple of small souvenirs. We were back on board in time for a late lunch, and although there had been nothing in Bilbao we’d especially wanted to see we’d enjoyed our short visit and would happily return.
The sun showed its face through the afternoon, so we read and dozed on our balcony loungers, before working our brain cells at the individual quiz. We opted to eat in the Glass House this evening, taking along the bottle we won yesterday, and where once again we never made it as far as the dessert course! There was no-one else there when we arrived (including staff: we had to go hunting for waiters!), but by the time we left it was pretty busy, including a dozen or so passengers who had booked for the wine-and-food tasting session.
The show in the Curzon Lounge this evening was another superb offering from the Adonia Theatre Company, tonight singing Burt Bacharat/Hal David songs in a show called “Magic Moments”. Excellent.
Once again our evening ended at the syndicate quiz: we didn’t do well at all tonight. Ah well, some you win….
Wednesday August 2 – at sea
A sea day sailing up through the Bay of Biscay, with things getting increasingly bumpy as the time progressed. Even I took a Stugeron, which is very unusual for me. And we’ve warned that we might not be able to tender into Guernsey tomorrow, which will be a huge shame.
We relaxed around the ship in the morning, doing nothing much, although George managed to win a quiz about cities of the UK, much to his surprise. He went off the the Adonia Vocalists session at midday and we later both joined in the Battle of the Sexes again. The ladies won again, and we got a ‘bottle’ of chocolates to share, which is quite a good result!
The Theatre Company put on an Alan Ayckbourne play in the afternoon, and much as I would have liked to have seen it, it just went on too long. Instead, we sat in on a “Name That Tune” quiz and generally just relaxed.
Although it was a formal night we ate in the Conservatory buffet as the dining room menu didn’t appeal at all. Have to say the food in the MDR has been very disappointing – not much choice if you’re not a fish-lover (hello George) and everything pretty bland-tasting. There seem to be fewer options too, or maybe I’m imagining that?
Anyhow, after a pretty quick meal we changed into our formal night gear so we wouldn’t be thrown out of any of the bars on board! Pleased to see that the dress code is enforced around the ship. There was a cabaret act on this evening, but we’ve seen her before so gave her a miss and went to the pictures instead: they were showing “Golden Years” a very funny film starring Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna, among others, about an old man who accidentally robs a bank. Well worth seeing.
Afterwards we joined our four quizzing friends in a packed Andersons for the syndicate quiz (failed again) before going to bed with fingers and toes crossed for Guernsey tomorrow.
Thursday August 3 – at anchor off St Peter Port
We were in the Ocean Grill having our breakfast when the Captain came over the airwaves to tell us that sadly we wouldn’t be able to tender into St Peter Port. We’d been at anchor for a while and had seen from our balcony that a tender had gone off, but it seems the sea state is just too dangerous and we saw for ourselves that things were a bit wild on the port side of the ship. We were promised that things would be reviewed throughout the day, but we weren’t holding out much hope. Really disappointed, as this is such a nice place to visit and I’d been looking forward to exploring Castle Cornet. But it is what it is.
An ’emergency’ entertainment programme was cobbled together for the day, so we had a few things to do. There was a “scary stuff” quiz in the morning (we did better than we expected to) and George went to the Adonia Vocalists session just before lunch. We also started throwing stuff in the suitcases, and I wandered around the ship taking photos of all the public areas, inside and out.
More packing followed lunch, and we both took part in the Battle of the Sexes Rematch. New team captains today, and even though the men had George in charge the ladies still managed to come out on top. Again.
We left our anchorage at around 3.30 in the afternoon and sailed straight into heavy, lumpy seas, so out came the Stugeron again. The sea didn’t settle until later in the evening.
But we were feeling fine in time for our second lovely dinner in Ocean Grill, although George left a few minutes before me as he had to go and prepare to sing: the Vocalists did two short performances from the top of the Atrium, both well received. I was quite proud!
In between George singing we watched the real singers of the Adonia Theatre Company in a show called “A Night at the Palladium”: another excellent offering from these hard-working young people. And we ended our cruise with a shockingly bad round of the syndicate quiz, but at least we had a chance to say “goodbye” to the two couples who’d shared our triumphs and failures over the week.
When we returned to our cabin, our big suitcases had disappeared from by the door, and we just needed to put the final (fourth) case out before we went to bed. And waiting for us in our letterbox were prices we’d asked about for six possible cruises next year.
It has been an interesting cruise, nicely relaxing and quite different on several levels. Time when we get home to check through those cruise quotes and maybe – just maybe – book something!
Friday August 4 – Southampton
Docking procedures woke us one last time this morning, and we were in the Ocean Grill for our breakfast just after 7.00 am. We could see ‘Queen Mary 2″ docked at the next terminal, and we later saw ‘Ventura’ and a Princess Line ship both in, so Southampton was having a busy Friday.
Our official disembarkation time was 8.30, but when we made our way to Anderson’s for our meeting point we were told we could go ashore, nearly half an hour before that time. We were some of the first passengers off, and the baggage reclaim hall was nearly empty (fewer than 700 passengers + a short cruise = not much luggage!), so we found our cases straight away. Our taxi quickly arrived and took us back to the Holiday Inn where we loaded our stuff into our car.
But we were in no hurry to drive off as we were meeting our world cruise friends for coffee. Angie and Richard were boarding ‘Adonia’ today, and we took advantage of being in the city together to have a bit of a catch-up. It was so lovely so see them again: it was as if we’d only seen them yesterday! Hope they enjoy their cruise and have better weather than we did!
Roads were busy, and we didn’t get home till mid-afternoon. The all-important unpacking was done, the first load of washing was on, and a much-needed cup of tea brewed within an hour of unlocking the front door.
Now it’s time to relax. Tomorrow we’ll do a supermarket shop and begin to attack the garden, and then maybe start planning our next trip on the high seas!